The Role of Helmets in Preventing Ski and Snowboard Related Fatalities

On December 29, 2013, 7-time world champion Formula One race car driver Michael Schumacher sustained life-threatening injuries while skiing in France. Doctors believe that the helmet Mr. Schumacher was wearing when he fell may have saved his life.

It is not surprising that Mr. Schumacher was wearing a helmet. A February 2012 survey found that more than 80% of Canadians wore a helmet while skiing or snowboarding. Similarly, the U.S. based National Ski Areas Association reported that helmet use increased from 25% in 2003/04 to 67% in 2012/13. Unfortunately, while studies show a 30-50% reduction in general head injuries during this time, there has been no significant reduction in ski related fatalities.

Better reporting of head injuries may help explain why helmet use has not resulted in lower skiing fatality rates. At the same time, equipment advances now let us ski faster, perform bigger tricks, and access terrain that was previously out-of-bounds. Another explanation may be a lack of safety testing of ski helmets. In fact, the Canadian safety standard for ski helmets is a voluntary standard so difficult to meet that no helmet manufacturers have even applied.

A study led by Johns Hopkins University and published in November 2012 concluded that helmets save lives without increasing the risk of injury. The results of this study should provide support for the Canadian Paediatric Society’s call for mandatory helmet legislation, something which Nova Scotia has already adopted.

Wearing a proper fitting helmet is just one way to help lessen the inherent risk associated with skiing and snowboarding. However, if you, or someone you know, have been seriously injured while skiing or snowboarding a personal injury lawyer may be able to help.

About the Authors